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How To Preserve Your Summer Harvest

Summer harvest is happening right now and I am looking for ways to preserve as much summer as I can for winter. I love the old traditions of preparing for winter. Thinking about the lifestyle of homesteading in the middle of the mountains far away from anything makes you think about more sustainable ways of living. And since having a cabin in the woods is a big goal of mine I find that preparing for living in the middle of nowhere can never be to early.

It may not be as necessary to prepare for winter as they did back in the olden days but if we adopt some of their sustainable practices the world would be a lot better off. And it isn’t as difficult to get started nowadays. There are so many ways to preserve your garden. Or if you don’t have a garden you can still preserve fresh produce from the abundant harvests from your local farmers. Let’s go over a few different items that are easy to preserve for winter so you can start eating fresh food all year long.

Freezing Your Summer Harvest

Freezing is going to be much easier than canning. And I figure it is an easy place to start for beginners like me. I would like to learn canning one day soon but just don’t have the time or money to invest in learning how to do it quite yet.

Depending on what you have growing in your garden or locally there are going to be all kinds of different things we can prep for the freezer. Below is a list of the easiest ways to preserve some of my favorite foods from the summer harvest here in Colorado.

Freezing Palisade Peaches

A common item to freeze here in Colorado is Palisade peaches. Ela Farms has amazing field-grown organic heirloom tomatoes. I love stocking up on organic peaches from Ela Farms. This requires only a little bit of time. Blanch them for 30 seconds and then throw them in an ice bath for about a minute. Then slice them and place them flat on a baking sheet in the freezer. After they are frozen solid transfer them to a large bag or container. Frozen peaches are great for a winter pie/crisp and for breakfast like oatmeal or smoothies.

A common item to freeze here in Colorado is Palisade peaches. Ela Farms has amazing field-grown organic heirloom tomatoes. I love stocking up on organic peaches from Ela Farms. This requires only a little bit of time. Blanch them for 30 seconds and then throw them in an ice bath for about a minute. Then slice them and place them flat on a baking sheet in the freezer. After they are frozen solid transfer them to a large bag or container. Frozen peaches are great for a winter pie/crisp and for breakfast like oatmeal or smoothies.

Freezing Heirloom Tomatoes

Heirloom tomatoes are another great summer item to freeze for winter. We grew a lot of cherry tomatoes that I will later turn into a tomato sauce to freeze. But I also love buying the field grown organic heirloom tomatoes from Ela Farms.

Having fresh tomatoes on hand are especially great for soups like chili, tortilla soup, green chili, goulash and so much more. Freezing tomatoes requires blanching to remove the skin like the peaches. Then you can slice, dice, crush or turn them into a paste or sauce that you either freeze or can.

One of the simplest methods I have found is you can actually freeze tomatoes whole. Then when you are ready to eat them set them in your fridge to defrost for a few hours then you can peel them easily and cut them up for whatever you are making.

Freezing Chilis from Your Summer Harvest

Peppers of all kinds can be frozen. We grew 6 jalapeno plants and had an abundance of jalapeños from our garden this year. We can’t wait to grow more varieties next year.

If you have a lot of peppers from your garden this season all we have to do to save them for winter is simply throw them into the freezer whole, with stems and seeds. And you don’t have to wait for them to defrost, it is actually easier to handle peppers when they are still frozen. I will have to test this method out myself but I love how simple it is.

Or another option is to de-seed and lightly crush them in a blender or food processor to easily throw into any winter dish. Wear gloves and face-covering if your chilis are hot. Then make sure to wash hands thoroughly after handling.

Vintage Delicate Floral Skirt

Freezing Berries

Every year we love picking berries at our favorite local farms that offer u-pick like Berry Patch Farms and Garden Sweet. There is nothing better than pulling out this fresh summer treat in the dead of winter. Especially when you are craving a berry pie, crisp or any other baked goods.

When freezing your summer berries you may want to try to avoid freezer burn. Investing in a vacuum sealer is a great way to ensure that your freezer goods will preserve longer. Freezing berries after you pick them always has to be done quickly. It is especially helpful to freeze them first then worry about making jam or jelly at a later date when you have more time.

Make sure to label your bags with the quantity (if you are pre-measuring) and the date. Then thaw and use when you are ready for them.

Freezing Tomatillos From Your Summer Harvest

We grew a couple of tomatillo plants for the first time this year and they produce so much fruit. My favorite way to preserve them is to make a huge batch of salsa verde or green chili enchilada sauce to use half for dinner and half for later. This tactic makes for an easy meal for a later date. And fresh salsa and enchilada sauce is always so much better than what is in a can.

Freezing Zucchini

Having to much zucchini squash can never be a bad thing because it is such a nutrient and vitamin-rich food that gives winter dishes a wholesome addition. We had one zucchini plant this year that produced a few large zucchinis and we had lots of neighbors share their bounty with us.

You can pre shred the zucchini to throw in the freezer. Add it to soups, or any meal, or your favorite baked good. Portion out the shredded zucchini in 1 cup or 2 cup increments so you can easily transfer it to recipes with no hassle. If you are baking with zucchini make sure you thaw it and drain off the extra liquid.

If you are feeling extra ambitious you can also spend a day baking an abundance of zucchini bread and zucchini muffins to freeze and have ready all winter long.

Freezing Carrots, Beets, and Other Root Vegetables

Carrots can be washed and chopped and thrown in the freezer. This is another convenient vegetable to have for soups and stews. We had some carrots that grew in our garden that we are freezing for later.

Our beets didn’t do as well in the garden this year but I have been buying and freezing beautiful organic bunches from Brown Dog Farm. Beets are another one of my favorites to have on hand for smoothies and juices. Just peel, wash, chop and freeze your garden bounty.

Freezing Kale and Chard

The kale in our garden was thriving this year, until the aphids swarmed in at the last minute. I am hoping I can try and save it still but it is looking like a a lost cause so late in the season. Which is a bummer because I wanted to preserve the bounty in the freezer and by making my own kale chips.

If your kale, chard, or other leafy greens are doing better in your garden you can preserve them by thoroughly washing and drying. Then chop them and put them in a plastic bag or container. Frozen greens from the garden are great to use in soups and smoothies during the colder months. And doing it this way is much tastier and fresher than the greens you get from the grocery store.

Apples In Cold Storage

Apple picking season is starting to pick up here in Colorado. We love going to Adam’s Apple every year for their wide variety of apples but this year they were hit with a nasty frost in April that killed a lot of their fruit. But we were lucky enough to be in close proximity to Big B’s Orchard in Hotchkiss this September and loved discovering a new farming area in Colorado while also picking some lovely apples for winter.

There are many ways to store the apples you just picked fresh from a local farm so you can have this sweet treat all year round. Many people will turn it into jam, sauce, cider, pies, butter, vinegar, and more. But the easiest way is to keep them in a cool space of about 34 degrees and your apples can last 6 months or longer. Not every variety will keep in storage so here is a list of apples that do well in storage.

Potatoes In Cold Storage

We harvested a ton of potatoes from our garden this year. And instead of rushing to try to eat 20 pounds of potatoes, you can learn how to preserve your summer harvest in many different ways. Potatoes can be stored in the same way apples are. A cool, dark basement or root cellar is going to be your best bet. But you can also keep them in a large camper cooler downstairs. There are certain varieties that keep better like the yellow gold ones keep better than red or russet potatoes.

Enjoy Summer Harvest All Year Long

When it comes to your summer harvest, if you are going the freezing route it may be nice to invest in a vacuum sealer but of course, this is not necessary. Make sure to use quality freezer bags or containers to keep your summer harvest tasting fresh straight out of the freezer. And most importantly don’t forget to label! I hope this post helps you enjoy summer all year long.

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